How to harness the power of the Web

The Internet has become an integral part of how the world does business, and the sooner jewelers get online with effective Web sites and marketing programs the sooner they will be able to take advantage of the many opportunities it presents.

That was one of several messages presented by Lillian H. Shapiro, director of the Web-based Diamond Trading System for the Diamond Dealers Club of New York, during a seminar titled, “Buying and Selling Diamonds on the Internet.”

Shapiro stressed that the best jewelry-industry Web sites are the ones that simply and elegantly reflect the uniqueness of their businesses. She said great Web sites show their best inventory, update it on a regular basis, provide basic contact information, and tell their stories well.

“You have gorgeous stuff, show it off,” Shapiro said. “What’s great about the Web is that you don’t have to print anything. All you need is a digital camera or to hire someone who can take quality digital pictures.”

She also noted studies that indicate that Web sites have five to six seconds to get a potential customer’s attention. She also suggested showing a Web site to different people before launching it. “When you do a Web site, don’t release it until you show it to at least 10 or 15 people,” she said.

In addition, she said that online catalogs and shopping carts require a large investment of time and money. If you are not ready to make that investment, it may be better to hold off.

Making sure a Web site appears at or near the top of Web search engines is a complex process, but retailers do have options, including hiring a company that provides this service for a small fee or advertising on places like the Google and Yahoo search engines on a “pay-per-click” basis, meaning that you pay only when someone actually clicks on the ad.

She also suggested that jewelers learn to use eBay and Yahoo to sell their merchandise. “They make it really very simple,” she said. “They guide you in a relatively simple way to help you sell your jewelry online.”

And in many cases, the best thing to sell online is the product that isn’t moving in the store, she said.

The Internet, as well as automated inventory management systems, provides a great way for jewelers to know their customer base and to develop marketing programs to serve their best customers. She said this may be the most important aspect of using the Internet.